Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: abuse

Every culture has jerks

One of my pet peeves is when people excuse abuse by citing culture. “That’s part of the culture” is valid for many tihngs, but not when it comes to abusing another person. I was reading a post on Ask A Manager with the question from a reader asking if they could thrive under a hypercritical manager. My immediate thought without reading the post was, “Yeah, but only if it’s for a evry short amount of time and you have a very thick skin.”

Then I read the post and became more concerned with each paragraph. The ltetter writer (LW) started by saying they were in a competitive technical field and had always been great at it. Until this boss, whom they call Jane. LW said that they knew Jane was just trying to coach them, but then went on to say that Jane made them feel like a complete failure. Jane said their work was 95% good, but LW felt as if 95% of the feedback from Jane was frustrated, critical, and accusatory.

This was when I started to get concerned. I mean, I was already biased in the beginning, but the first few paragrpahs did not paint a pretty picture. “She doesn’t really give positive feedback” cemented it for me. I didn’t actually have to read any more to know that the boss was a lost cause. It got worse–so much worse.

LW’s colleagues told LW that they would never work with Jane and that she made them want to pull their hair out. She’s made many people cry, including the LW. It broke my heart that the LW was trying so hard to be fair to their boss, who was crushing them under her foot. The ysaid they had lost their motivation, their creative spark, and was their self-worth.

I related so hard to this because of my parents. I will get to that in a second. There was one comment about how it might be cultural difference and blah, blah, blah. Obviosuly, I did not agree with this comment. The person claimed they worked with people from 50 different cultures and that French people, for example, were like tihs, more interested in pointing out errors. Someone who acutally worked in France said, no, they were blunt, yes, but not cruel. Another person working in France said that they had a boss who was like this and she got fired.

And it’s interesting that the person making the initial comment of that particular thread was not French (they were from New York). It’s a form of soft bigotry that is annoying as hell. When someone who is not part of a culture broadly stereotypes that culture and ignores evidence to the contrary–even when it’s a purportedly positive stereotype–it’s still bigotry.

Side note: It’s similar to ow Asian people used to be called the model minority and praised for being smart, quiet, and obedient. By the way, there was a time when people used to gush about how smart Asians were. I used to snap, “That’s because oll the stupid ones are in Asia!” Which I would not say now because it’s cruel, but my point was that for EastĀ  Asians who came here in the 60s, it was for grad school. It caused a brain drain back in Asia ,and many of them didn’t go back.

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Resting Blank Face

When I was young, I was taught that my emotions were not allowed. More specifically, my negative emotions. I was not supposed to be angry or sad or upset. I was not supposed to disagree with my parents in any way. I was supposed to paste a smile on my face and act like I was happy/grateful/upbeat all the time.

I have to say. Upbeat is not in my vocabulary. Not by a long shot. Even when I’m happy or elated about something, I’m very lowkey. I have had to learn in online communication that I can come across as flat, so I need to add emojis and exclamation points. I’m verbose, yet, but I’m also factual. I don’t tend to be flowery in my writing, so I can come across as dry.

In real life, I have perefcted the blank face. It’s my resting face, and I have to actively add emotion to it if I don’t want to be perceived as being emotionless. I had a Taiwanese roommate once tell me that he could not see a guy asking me out. This did not come out of nowhere, by the way. I was complaining about being hit on as I did my moring walk. At least once a week, a guy would try to come onto me. It was always white and black guys, though–never Asian guys.

When my Taiwanese roommate said this, I retorted that not all guys were afraid of a strong womnan. It wasn’t very tactful of me, but he hadn’t been tactful, either. He was very much into the steretoypical Asian woman, but then he would complain about how bored he was of the women he was dating.

Not only had I trained myself not to show my emotions, but I also trained myself not to show pain. Physical pain, I mean. As a result, my pain threshold is insanely high. When we were doing chin na (joint manipulation) techniques in Taiji, this was a problem. You’re supposed to tap out when the pain was too much, but I would never tap out. Not because I was trying to be hard, but because I truly could not feel it.

My teacher finally decided that I could only practice with her because she did not want me to be hurt. She was the only one experienced enough to realize when to back off without me having to tap out. She talked to her teacher about it and one time, he was in our class to practice/watch. He suggested i stand on my tiptoes, and then i was abble to feel the pain. I did, and he demonstrated. I automatically felt the pain and tapped out. He said that when you were on your toes (generic you), you can’t tense up your muscles/joints.

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Ever more bitter, rarely more sweet

When you’re in a situation that feels hopeless, it’s hard not to become bitter. There is a commentor on one of the blogs I read who is oozing in negativity. Having read about her situation, it’s understandable. Unfortunately, she’s at the place where she feels like she can do nothing about it but constantly complain.

I’ve been there. I am currently there re: my family. It’s funny because the medical trauma I recently went through* has been a boon in many ways. It feels weird to say especially because it included me dying twice But, it’s the truth. I realized a lot about myself during that time. Most of it good, some of it…sobering.

On the good tip: I fucking love my body. Decades of body issues disappeared in a flash. That’s not exactly true. They were already starting to mitigate with the help of Taiji, but when I left the hospital, you could not say shit to me about my body or my face. Not that my parents didn’t try, believe you me. They wanted to go there with my weight, which I had shut down decades ago. I explicitly told them they could not bring up my weight. Of course they moaned and groaned about it because ‘they were just worried about my health’. Uh huh. That’s straight-up bullshit, by the way.

When I was anorexic and my junior counselors in college told my mom, she had nothing to say. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. No words of concern or encouragement. The only thing she had to say was that she was jealous my waist was smaller than hers. So, health concerns? Hell, naw. That wasn’t it at all. It was purely weight and how I looked. She put me on my first diet when I was seven, saying I would have a beautiful face if I lost weight.

When I look at pics of me as a teenager, I was chunky yes, but I wasn’t grotesque as I was made to feel by my mother. I was thick in part because I have dense muscles, but I was fine. My mom monitoring every morsel that went into my mouth gave me a complex that lasted decades.

Taiji started making me feel at ease in my body. Then it helped me walk away from a minor car accident with only a big bruise on my stomach from the seatbelt. Or maybe the air bag popping. Other than that, I walked away without a scratch. I couldn’t say the same for my car, sadly.

That’s when I started to realize that my body was a wondrous machine. After waking up from my medical coma (walking pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, stroke), I was in awe how my body had taken a beating and kept on ticking. I don’t thinkĀ  can overemphasize how bleak the prognosis was.

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The psychological troll…er, toll

I didn’t sleep well last night. Or rather, I didn’t sleep long. I slept hard, but only six hours. Then I couldn’t sleep any longer. Normally, I wouldn’t be surprised by that because that’s how much I used to sleep before going to the hospital. Since I got out of the hospital, however, I’ve been sleeping eight hours a night. Very surprising! Well, not really, given the narcotics, sedatives, and antibiotics I was hopped up on. They were some very powerful drugs and they didn’t exit my system completely until I was home for two-and-a-half weeks.

Afterwards, I still was able to mostly sleep eight hours a night, only waking up once or two. In the last few days, however, my sleep has been spotty. I think it’s because I’m detoxing from the parental visit. I had a hard time falling asleep last nigh t and I woke up early.

I had three emails from my mother waiting for me when I got up, which did not improve my mood. My parents had to quarantine for fourteen days in a hotel upon returning to Taiwan–which means they have very little to do. Which means my mother can email me several times a day. Which is annoying, in case you can’t tell from my terse sentences.

Here’s the thing about abuse. It’s difficult to tell how deleterious it is while it’s still ongoing. It’s terrible, yes, but it becomes normal when it’s continuous. I mean, that’s just the way life works. Even the most unusual event, positive or negative, becomes normal when it continues to happen or enough time has passed from the time it happened. Take, for example, my recent medical trauma. It’s not every day you suffer from pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke, and live to tell the tale.

Side Note: I was reading an advice column and a writer wrote in that her mother had suffered a stroke. It was tangential to the actual issue, but the advice columnist said that having to have someone care for you after a stoke is common. That hit me hard for some reason. I mean, it’s common sense and it’s not as if I didn’t know it before. But seeing it in print drove home the fact of how lucky I was to survive two cardiac arrests and a stroke with almost no damage. Seriously. I’ve gotten the clean bill of health from both my cardiologist and my neurologist–which is incredible.

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But faaaaaaamily

Family is considered sacrosanct in society. At least, the idea of family is. It’s given lip service and dragged up any time a Republican resigns in disgrace (as in spending more time with his family–and it’s nearly always a ‘his’). Prejudicial attitudes are wrapped in faux concern for the children, which is laughable because it’s always things like trans women in the bathroom–which has no affect on anyone other than the trans woman who would just like to use the right bathroom, thank you very much.


When I woke up in the hospital and realized my parents were in Minnesota, let’s just say my first reaction was not one of gratitude. In the Caring Bridge journal (which I read later), there was mention of how great it is to have family around is such difficult times. That is predicated on it being a supportive and helpful family, which is most emphatically not the case with my family. Or rather, one member of my family.

Let me illustrate with a story. The second or third day I woke up, my parents came to visit me. My father started rambling about missing my childhood and wanting to bring me to Taiwan so he could protect me and we could be a family. Keep in mind that I’ve lived in Minnesota for the vast majority of my life and consider it my home. Also, there’s a reason I only talked to my parents once or twice a month before I landed in the hospital–and it wasn’t for a lack of time to chat. I had plenty of that. The idea of being dragged off to Taiwan was horrifying to me. The last time my brother and his family went to Taiwan, I most adamantly refused to go. Why? Because the last time I went to Taiwan, I became deeply suicidal and had to stop myself from walking into the ocean. I’m not being flippant or hyperbolic here. I was deeply depressed the entire time I was there and I vowed never to return. I would qualify that now, but the idea of living anywhere near my parents, permanently, is the stuff nightmares are made of.

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WWDTAOL: But faaaaaaaaaamily!

Today in What We Don’t Talk About Out Loud, family edition. I know I said I would write more about women and the patriarchy, but that’s not what I want to write about at the moment. I may get back to it at some point, but we’ll see. This post is about praying at the altar of faaaaaaamily and how we’re supposed to revere it above all else (while also not doing anything to support it). Fortunately, in the last several years, there have been more people speaking out as to the problem with this mentality, but it still seems to be the default. There is something the matter with YOU if you are estranged from your family or low contact. There are several reasons for this so let’s dive in.

The first is the same as in my post about women and the patriarchy–holding up the status quo. For people who are invested in doing what they’re supposed to do, it can be a kick in the posterior to have others not doing the same thing. It reminds me of an old letter on Dear Prudence (they run old letters on Sundays). The letter was from someone who had spent the past several years (from when the letter was written) taking care of their deteriorating and abusive mother. The Letter Writer (LW) mentioned that their brother had cut off the family once he turned 18 due to the abuse he suffered at their mother’s hands. The crux of the matter was that the mother had come into a large amount of money. The LW was seething that her brother would inherit a portion of it despite walking away. The LW wanted to know if they could somehow get their mother and other relatives to cut the brother out of their wills because he hadn’t “manned up” and taken care of the mother in her late years. The LW glossed over the abuse, barely acknowledging it existed in their rage against their brother not doing the right thing (according to them).

This was Emily Yoffe and I hesitated to read her response because she was all over the map when it came to her answers. She had a stubborn streak of misogyny especially against sexual harassment victims. In this case, she was spot on. She rightly took the LW to task for being pissed at their brother for doing what he needed to live his best life. She astutely intuited that perhaps the LW was mad because they had made a different (and not healthy) choice to stay in contact with their abusive mother. This is the point I wanted to make. The LW held up the status quo because it’s what expected in our society. They did what they thought was their duty and was resentful because their brother didn’t do the same thing. In other words, misery loves company. I understand why the LW felt bitter about it, but she was directing her ire at the wrong person.

It reminds me of a metaphor I heard of relating to this topic. A dysfunctional family system is like a leaky boat that is rapidly taking on water. Or rather, the abusive person is the leak in that boat. Everyone on board is frantically bailing out water with equally-leaky buckets, trying to keep the boat afloat. At some point, one of the bailers realizes it’s futile and jumps overboard. They manage to swim ashore at great detriment to themselves. Everyone left on board, instead of being impressed and perhaps inspired that someone made it out alive, they become enraged at that person for escaping the situation. Why? First, because it leaves the ones behind with more water (abuse) to bail out (deal with). Second, because it busts the illusion that there’s nothing to be done but bail out the water (put up with the abuse). It can make the left behind people feel like they’ve wasted their lives up to that point. Third, and this is where the analogy falls apart, it’s difficult to be angry at the abuser because you know the abuser is not going to change. It kinda fits. The boat isn’t going to fix itself in the analogy.

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